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grievous offence if any one comes near them better mounted, and they are in a tremor lest the neighing and snorting and prancing should be contagious.
Surely, however, ridicule implies contempt: and so the feeling must be condemnable, subversive of gentleness, incompatible with kindness?
Not vecessarily so, or universally; far from it. The word ridicule, it is true, has a narrow, one-sided meaning. From our proneness to mix up personal feelings with those which are more purely objective and intellectual, we have in great measure restricted the meaning of ridicule, which would properly extend over the whole region of the ridiculous, the laughable, where we may disport ourselves innocently, without any evil emotion; and we have narrowed it, so that in common usage it mostly corresponds to derision, which does indeed involve personal and offensive feelings. As the great business of wisdom in her speculative office is to detect and reveal the hidden harmonies of things, those harmonies which are the sources and the ever-flowing emanations of Law, the dealings of Wit, on the other hand, are with incongruities. And it is the perception of incongruity, flashing upon us, when unaccompanied, as Aristotle observes (Poet. c. v.), by pain, or by any predominant moral disgust, that provokes laughter, and excites the feeling of the ridiculous. But it no more follows that the perception of such an incongruity must breed or foster haughtiness or disdain, than that the perception of any thing else that may be erroneous or wrong should do so. You might as well argue, that a man must be proud and scornful because he sees that there is such a thing as sin, or such a thing as folly in the world. Yet, unless we blind our eyes, and gag our cars, and hood-wink our minds, we shall seldom pass through a day without having some form of evil brought in one way or other before us. Besides, the perception of incongruity may exist, and may awaken laughter, without the slightest reprobation of the object laughed at. We laugh at a pun, surely without a shade of contempt either for the words punned upon or for the punster ; and if a very bad pun be the next best thing to a very good one, this is not from its flattering any feeling of superiority in us, but because the incongruity is broader and more glaring. Nor, when we laugh at a droll combination of imagery, do we feel any contempt, but often admiration at the ingenuity shown in it, and an almost affectionate thankfulness toward the person by whom we have been amused, such as is rarely excited by any other display of intellectual power, as those who have ever enjoyed the delight of Professor Sedgwick's society will bear witness.
It is true, an exclusive attention to the ridiculous side of things is hurtful to the character, and destructive of earnestness and gravity. But no less mischievous is it to fix our attention exclusively, or even mainly, on the vices and other follies of mankind. Such contemplations, unless counteracted by wholesomer thoughts, harden or rot the heart, deaden the moral principle, and make us hopeless and reckless. The objects toward which we should turn our minds habitually are those which are great, and good, and pure ; the throne of virtue, and she who sits upon it; the majesty of truth, the beauty of holiness. This is the spiritual sky through which we should strive to mount, " springing from crystal step to crystal step," and bathing our souls in its living, life-giving ether. These are the thoughts by which we should whet and polish our swords for the warfare against evil, that the vapours of the earth may not rust them. But in a warfare against evil, under one or other of its forms, we are all of us called to engage : and it is a childish dream to fancy that we can walk about among mankind without perpetual necessity of remarking that the world is full of many worse incongruities besides those which make us laugh.
Nor do I deny that a laugher may often be a scoffer and a scorper. Some jesters are fools of a worse breed than those who used to wear the cap. Sneering is commonly found along with a bitter splenetic misanthropy; or it may be a man's sem hallewir haart, venting itself in mockery at others. Cruelty will
wellinte its atrocities by derision. The hyæna grins in its den ; most thai porer. But though a certain kind of wit, like other intellectual
is, with moral dopravity, there has often been a playfulness in the mana men-in Phocion, in Socrates, in Luther, in Sir Thomas More
i mare, adds a bloom to the severer graces of their character, shining forth
senthine brightness when storms assail them, and springing up in fresh www wider the axe of the executioner. How much is our affection for Hector
exi boy his tossing his boy in his arms, and langhing at his childish fears! w the language of love : they betoken the complacency and delight of the Arts in the object of its contemplation Why are we to assume that there must was the bitterness or contempt in them, when they enforce a truth or reprove an mapest ? On the contrary, some of those who have been richest in wit and humour hieve beon among the simplest and kindest-hearted of men. I will only instance Faller, Bishop Earle, Lafontaine, Matthes Claudius, Charles Lamh "Le méchant n'est jamais comique,” is wisely remarked by De Maistre, when canvassing the prekonsions of Voltaire (Soiréca, i 973); and the converse is equally trae : le comique, de morar comique, n'est jamais méchant. A langh, to be jopous, must fow from a joyous heart ; but without kindness there can be no true jor. And what a dall, plodding
, tramping clanking would the ordinary intercourse of society be, without wit to enliven and brighten it! When two men meet, they seem to be kept at bay through the estranging effects of absence, until some sportive sally opens their hearts to each other. Nor does any thing spread cheerfulness so rapidly over a wbole party, or an assembly of people, however large Reason expands the soul of the philosopher ; imagination glorifies the poet, and breathes a breath of spring through the young and genial; but if we take into account the numberless glances and gleams whereby wit lightens our every-day life, I hardly know what power ministers so bountifully to the innocent pleasures of mankind
Burely, too, it cannot be requisite, to a man's being in earnest, that he should wear a perpetual frowd. Or is there less of sincerity in Nature during her gambols in spring, than during the stiffness and harshness of her wintry gloom? Does not the Pind's blythe caroling come from the heart quite as much as the quadruped's monMonous cry? And is it then altogether impossible to take up one's abode with Truth, and to let all sweet homely feelings grow about it and cluster around it, and to sinile upon it as on a kind father or mother, and to sport with it, and hold light And merry talk with it, as with a loved brother or sister ; and to fondle it, and play with it, as with a child! No otherwise did Socrates and Plato commune with Truth; Hy otherwise Cervantes and Shakspere. This playfulness of Truth is beautifully toprented by Landor, in the conversation between Marcus Cicero and his brother
, ww ws allegory which has the voice and the spirit of Plato. On the other hand, the wulans of those who exclaim against every sound more lively than a bray or a bleat
, ** variatory to truth, are often prompted, not so much by their deep feeling of the inity of the truth in question, as of the dignity of the person by whom that truth w maintained. It is our vanity, our self-conceit, that makes us so sore and irritable. Tu yaxe argument we may reply gravely, and fancy that we have the best of it; w when is too dull or too angry to smile, cannot answer a smile, except by fretting and tuning Olivia lets us into the secret of Malvolio's distaste for the Clown. For the full expansion of the intellect, moreover, to preserve it from that narroir
w postimi warp which our proneness to give ourselves up to the sway of the Wt won to produce, its various faculties, however opposite, should grow and but up side by side-should twine their arms together, and strengthen each by we wrestles. Thus will it be best fitted for discerning and acting upon
the multiplicity of things which the world sets before it. Thus, too, will something like a balance and order be upheld, and our minds be preserved from that exaggeration on the one side, and depreciation on the other side, which are the sure results of exclusiveness. A poet, for instance, should have much of the philosopher in him ; not, indeed, thrusting itself forward at the surface--this would only make a monster of his work, like the Siamese twins, neither one thing nor two—but latent within : the spindle should be out of sight, but the web should be spun. by the Fates. A philosopher, on the other hand, should have much of the poet in him. A historian cannot be great without combining the elements of the two minds. A statesman ought to unite those of all the three. A great religious teacher, such as Socrates, Bernard, Luther, Schleiermacher, needs the statesman's practical power of dealing with men and things, as well as the historian's insight into their growth and purpose. He needs the philosopher's ideas, impregnated and impersonated by the imaginations of the poet. In like manner our graver faculties and thoughts are much chastened and bettered by a blending and interfusion of the lighter, so that “the sable cloud" may turn her silver lining on the night ;" while our lighter thoughts require the graver to substantiate them and keep them from evaporating. Thus Socrates is said, in Plato's Banquet, to have maintained that a great tragic poet ought likewise to be a great comic poet : an observation the more remarkable, because the tendency of the Greek mind, as at once manifested in their Polytheism, and fostered by it, was to insulate all its ideas; and as it were, to split up the intellectual world into a cluster of Cyclades ; whereas the appetite of union and fusion, often leading to confusion, is the characteristic of modern times. The combination, however, was realised in himself, and in his great pupil ; and may, perhaps, have been so to a certain extent in Æschylus, if we may judge from the fame of his satyric dramas. At all events the assertion, as has been remarked more than once,—for instance by Coleridge (Remains, ii., 12),—is a wonderful prophetical intuition, which has received its fulfilment in Shakspere. No heart would have been strong enough to hold the woe of Lear and Othello, cxcept that which had the unquenchable elasticity of Falstaff and the ‘Midsummer Night's Dream.' He, too, is an example that the perception of the ridiculous does not necessarily imply bitterness and scorn. Along with his intense humour, and his equally intense piercing insight into the darkest most fearful depths of human nature, there is still a spirit of universal kindness, as well as universal justice, pervading his works; and Ben Jonson has left us a precious memorial of him, where he calls him “My gentle Shakspere.” This one epithet sheds a beautiful light on his character: its truth is attested by his wisdom, which ould never have perfect unless it had been harmonised by the gentleness of the dove. A similar union of the graver and lighter powers is found in several of Shakspere's contemporaries, and in many others among the greatest poets of the modern world ; in Boccaccio, in Cervantes, in Chaucer, in Göthe, in Tieck; so was it ip Walter Scott.
213.—THE PAGE'S SCENES IN PHILASTER.
BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER. (The Page’s Scenes in • Philaster' have been held unsurpassed in tender delicacy. It is difficult to quote a scene or scenes from Beaumont and Fletcher, without being offended by some inherent grossness, which is here happily wanting. The date of the first play of these dramatists is 1607. Francis Beaumont was born in 1586, and died in 1015. John Fletcher was born in 1576, and died in 1625.)
The story of Philaster' is that of a rightful heir to a throne falling in love with the danghter of the usurper. Their affection is disturbed by jealousies excited by a designing woman, and encouraged by the tyrannical king, but the lovers are finally happy and triumphanto
The Page is a lady in disguise, in love with Philaster. Charles Lamb says, “For many years
Philaster. I have a boy sent by the gods,
him roots; and of the crystal springs,
That ever master kept. Bellario, the page, is told by Philaster that he has preferred him to the service of the princess :
Phi. And thou shalt find her honourable, boy ;
Bellario. Sir, you did take me up when I was nothing,
Phi. But, boy, it will prefer thee; thou art young,
Thou wilt remember best those careful friend
Bell. In that small time that I have seen the world,
Phi. Why, gentle boy, I find no fault at all
Bell. Sir, if I have made
Phi. Thy love doth plead so prettily to stay,
Bell. I am gone;
A day to pay him for his loyalty. There is also a fine scene in which Philaster, who has become jealous of Bellario, dis. charges him. At length the page throws off her disguise, and confesses the motive of her conduct:
My father would oft speak